THE BLOG

The Huge Downside To Being In Control All The Time

03/23/2013 09:08 am ET | Updated Apr 12, 2013

Alphabetizing gives me an adrenaline rush.

In fact, if we're really being honest, there are a few other vices I should confess to. Small zippered compartments kind of turn me on. Color-coding only revs my engine slightly more than drawer organizers -- oh, the potential of a good drawer organizer.

My heaven looks a lot like the Container Store (with an added chocolate fondue pot at checkout). Speaking of the Container Store, if you want to really get my blood pumping, show me some extra shelf space in the closet. What endless possibilities! I could make a crafting corner or a Pinterest project alcove. Or -- and I'm going to have to restrain myself here -- it could be a gift-wrapping nook! Talk about manna from heaven.

Why do sticky tabs make my toes tingle? Why are to-do lists like oxygen for my brain, essential to function?

Well, this is hard to say, but I'm a recovering controloholic. Basically, that means I consider organizing a professional sport. "Hoarders: Buried Alive" is like my NFL; call it Sunday night clutterball instead of Monday night football. Knickknacks are my kryptonite.

Before I went into recovery, if you had asked me to choose a super power, it would have been a no-brainer: flying -- useless; X-ray vision, boring. The super power I wanted? Control.

But slowly, it dawned on me that fulfillment shouldn't come from supersized wall calendars (they are like crack to a controloholic). Nor was it normal that I'd take a label maker over a vibrator any day of the week.

I tended to look forward to Tupperware parties more than Christmas. And my bucket list wasn't like anyone else's. It didn't have skydiving or traveling to India. Forget bungee jumping, I wanted to organize my parents' attic before I died. Talk about thrilling!

Was it sad that filing paperwork had become a hobby and certified professional organizers were my heroes? Yup. And I didn't realize it until I hit rock bottom.

My rock bottom happened at the literal bottom of my closet. I had been wanting to reorganize my closet for months. You know, the whole shebang: donating clothes from when I was skinnier, dusting shelves, making sure all of my hangers and shoes faced in the right direction.

I was convinced that life would be better after I cleaned my closet. I would feel amazing every time I went near the bedroom, I would find clothes I had forgotten about, I would magically lose weight from the calories burned from the endeavor.

Two Saturdays, five trash bags and three paper towel rolls later, I felt... the same, except I really needed to organize my kitchen pantry. You know: getting rid of expired canned goods, wiping down shelves, making sure all of my cereal boxes faced in the right direction. I was convinced that life would be better after I did this job. I would feel amazing every time I went near the kitchen, I would think of new recipes to try, I would magically lose weight... Wait a minute, I thought. This sounds eerily familiar.

Something odd was going on. Why hadn't the desired satisfaction come after I organized my attic or labeled my garage or even after I perfectly categorized my iTunes library?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was following the creed of all successful women, but it wasn't working!

"The busier you are, the more successful you are."

Nope, I was just busy.

"The more organized you are on the outside, the more ordered you are on the inside."

Nope, I'm no happier with an organized closet than with an orderly one.

Could it be that being in control was not all that it was cracked up to be? Could it be that my alphabetized adrenaline rush wouldn't last? That my obsession with labeled drawers is not truly fulfilling? That color-coding is merely a way to make me feel productive and, dare I say it, is totally useless?

Absolutely.

I realized I control my outside to feel more in control on the inside. That I fill my days, weekends and evenings with to do lists and projects because it makes me feel productive.

I also began to sense that I was not alone.

I see the symptoms in the women around me. A secret stash of ziplocs in the trunk of a car; a stubborn denial of their compulsion to control the way the dishwasher is loaded; a paranoia of 'spontaneous' people. Spontaneous is a dirty word for controloholics.

But, like an ugly boyfriend or an embarrassing rash, we keep it hidden and never talk about 'It.'

Until I did. I started to talk about It.

I started talking about how much it sucks to fill your schedule because it is the only way to feel productive, how much work it is to constantly be the one in charge of planning events for friends and how exhausting it is for your significant other to tip toe around all of your 'idiosyncrasies' -- a word that really stands for 'all the weird crap I do.'

Once I started to talk about It. I realized we are all struggling with some of these issues and asking ourselves some version of the same questions.

Are we making ourselves busy to feel productive because it distracts us from our inner feelings of dissatisfaction?

Is living to be in control surviving not thriving?

I don't know about you, but Martha Stewart can suck it! I want to cast off my Tupperware, cancel my Container Store membership and start talking about It -- control impulses, fake busy-ness and project overload.

I'm talking about It with my friends. I'm talking about It here. So, let's start the conversation.

Are you a controloholic?

Vanessa is a professional people watcher. She writes about, investigates and bothers fascinating, weird and interesting people for the amusement and entertainment of her followers. Follow Vanessa on Google Plus. or check out her website: ScienceOfPeople.org